Power Morcellator Class Action: Links Gynecological Procedure to Cancer Risk

Jared Firestone

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— Updated on June 23, 2020

Power Morcellator Class Action: Links Gynecological Procedure to Cancer Risk

Power Morcellator Class ActionThe power morcellator class action investigation has emerged over the laparoscopic power morcellation used in many gynecological surgical procedures. The procedures include myomectomies, hysterectomies, oophorectomies, and salpingectomies. The laparoscopic power morcellators are used during these procedures to cut tissue and remove it. They are popular because they enable doctors to remove large specimens from the abdomen in a minimally-invasive manner. Simply mincing up the larger structure in to smaller pieces for extraction from the body via vacuum. The benefit is a shorter recovery time due to the much smaller incision necessary to perform the procedure. However, these morcellators may be spreading cancer within the uterus, abdomen, and pelvis when used on women with uterine fibroids. This is due to some cancerous tissue is not being completely removed during these procedures.

The power morcellator class action focuses on the following power morcellators:  Ethicon Gynecare Morcellex, the Blue Endor MoreSolution Tissue Morcellator, and the Karl Storz Rotocut G1 Morcellator. The class of plaintiffs consists of women who have been diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma, uterine sarcoma, or other cancers. This diagnosis occurred within two years after surgery to remove fibroids, the uterus, ovaries, or fallopian tubes using these morcellators. According to the FDA, this risk of spreading cancer during procedures using morcellators is 1 in 350. Over 50,000 surgeries are performed each year using these morcellators. Consequently, it is estimated that over 150 women a year will have their cancer spread following the morcellation procedure. Thus creating a sizeable potential class action.

In August, 2014, Johnson & Johnson voluntarily recalled its Ethicon Gynecare Morcellex from hospitals worldwide, a few months after the FDA recommended that doctors stop using the devices. The company claimed that their product was beneficial to patients and performed as intended. However, they wanted to evaluate the risks-benefit ratio further.

A few different types of experts may be useful to the parties in the power morcellator class action. A urogynecology expert can discuss the risks, benefits, and alternatives to performing these procedures involving the morcellators. They can also discuss whether the injury is being caused by a malfunction of the equipment. Or from negligence by the doctors using the equipment. A urological oncology expert will be able to talk about the ability for cancer to spread in this region. As well as whether or not the morcellator contributed to this spread of cancer. Lastly, a biomedical engineer can discuss the design of the morcellators and whether anything could or could not have been done to make them more effective in mincing the tissue in a way that allows all of it to be extracted from the body with a higher rate of success.

A few individuals have already filed lawsuits against the makers of these morcellators. The causes of action against the device makers include negligence, fraudulent misrepresentation, failure to warn, failure to properly test, consumer risk, and failure to recall. The most recent suit was filed by two out-of-state plaintiffs against morcellator-manufacturer Olympus in a Pennsylvania federal court, where Olympus is headquartered. This case was filed a year after the first of these cases, a federal suit filed in New York against Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Ethicon, another morcellator-manufacturer. While these cases continue towards trial, it appears as if hundreds of more plaintiffs will assert their own claims as part of a class action against Olympus, Ethicon, and other morcellator-manufacturers.

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